Middle East demand for IT professionals spiraling
A rising need for IT professionals coupled with a short supply in local talent is impeding organizations’ migration efforts towards emerging technologies, according to industry experts.
“Manpower is not progressing at the same speed as technological development, and this is due to a number of challenges, including education and interest. As a result, local organizations are finding difficulty in recruiting IT professionals with the technical knowledge and skillset required to fulfill their job requirements,” said Andrew Calthorpe, CEO of award-winning data storage and protection firm, Condo Protego.
“In order to ensure a sustainable recruitment model, there is a critical need for homegrown IT professionals. This should start from the grassroots, from motivating students to pursue the profession as a career, to ensuring an adequate educational infrastructure is in place.”
A 2013 report by the International Data Corporation (IDC) showed that emerging networking technology skills, such as those required for cloud computing, mobility, and virtualization, represented 38.4 percent of the total networking skills gap in 2012, growing to 46.3 percent in 2016.
Within this group of skills, the IDC estimated in 2012 a shortage of around 18,421 full time equivalents (FTEs), IT professionals spending all of their work time working with networking technologies, with the gap increasing to 60,144 in 2016. As these technologies ramp up and gain a strong foothold within organizations across the region, demand for these skills will result in the gap widening at a compound annual growth rate of 34.4 percent between 2012 and 2016.
The total networking skills gap, an aggregation of essential and emerging networking skills, was estimated to be 47,945 FTEs in the surveyed countries, with the number rising to 129,862 by 2016.
The report also reflected a high demand for IT security skills – when asked what new or extra skills would be required in the next 12 to 24 months, 69.3 percent of respondents indicated that they would require more security skills.
“Security is of the utmost importance in the region given the recently reported threats and security breaches. Even if companies continue to hire expatriate workers, the transient work environment in the UAE will continue to make recruitment a challenge,” Calthorpe said.
“We need a stable workforce that is here to stay, and that is why local talent is a must. IT is constantly evolving, making it an exciting and challenging field to work in. But for youngsters to pursue it as a career, they first need to understand their options.”
With IT spending in the Middle East set to exceed US$32 billion this year, the skills gap is expected to widen in the region, according to 2014 predictions by IDC.
A lack of available skills around third platform technologies, such as mobility, analytics, cloud, and social media, as well as enabling technologies, such as security and virtualization, will place substantial pressure on IT providers and end-user organizations, according to the IDC predictions. Much of the skillset will continue to come from expatriates as the availability of local information and communications technology workers will remain relatively limited.
In the UAE, experts say this gap can largely be attributed to a limited skilled workforce.
“Some of the key reasons behind the skills gap are the smaller outflow of Emirati graduates from universities in the UAE, less interest among Emirati nationals to pursue higher/advanced IT education, and the lack of research, development, and innovation in the field,” said Saurabh Verma, Program Manager, IT Services, Middle East, Africa and Turkey, IDC.
“Taking necessary steps to attract more students to pursue an IT education and career will be pivotal to meeting this growing demand,” Verma added. “In addition, strengthening the syllabus and generating awareness about careers in IT at school level will further entice students to pursue advanced IT courses, which in turn will help bridge this gap in the long term.”
A 2012 IDC White Paper sponsored by Microsoft Corp showed that global demand for “cloud-ready” IT workers will grow by 26 percent annually through 2015, with as many as 7 million cloud-related jobs available worldwide. According to the study, IT hiring managers report that the biggest reason they failed to fill 1.7 million open cloud-related positions in 2012 was because job seekers lacked the training and certification needed to work in a cloud-enabled world.
Globally, almost two-thirds of enterprises are planning, implementing or using cloud computing, and more than 50 percent of businesses agree that cloud computing is a high priority. — SG
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